• Saturday, July 20, 2024

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Former Fujitsu executive frustrated over Horizon Scandal’s impact on reputation

Richard Christou argued that the main problem was how the state-owned Post Office handled the criminal prosecutions of post office operators.

A photograph taken on January 10, 2024, shows the logo of the Japanese multinational firm Fujitsu on the top of their Head Office building, in Bracknell, west of London (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Pramod Thomas

A FORMER Fujitsu executive expressed frustration at a public inquiry, saying that he felt “aggrieved” that the Horizon IT system, which he believed was good, had been tarnished by the scandal.

Richard Christou, former chief executive of Fujitsu Services Holdings, argued that the primary issue was the mishandling of prosecutions against post office operators by the state-owned body, the Guardian reported.

Fujitsu developed the Post Office’s Horizon IT system.

Christou’s testimony came as the inquiry delved into the reasons behind the wrongful prosecution of hundreds of post office operators for alleged financial discrepancies in their accounts, which were later attributed to faults in the Horizon system. Despite years of campaigning, the Post Office eventually acknowledged these faults.

When questioned about the lack of whistleblowers from Fujitsu, particularly regarding the ability of staff to remotely access and alter branch accounts, Christou rejected the term “tampering.”

He explained that any changes made were in cooperation with the Post Office to address various issues and stressed that no concerns were brought to attention during his tenure.

Flora Page, representing several post office operators, pressed Christou on the absence of whistleblowers. Christou responded that potential whistleblowers would need to be asked directly why they didn’t come forward, asserting that he was unaware of any such issues at the time.

Christou acknowledged the serious miscarriage of justice faced by postmasters and subpostmasters and reiterated his belief that the root problem lay in how the prosecutions were managed and the flow of information.

He denied any personal responsibility for the scandal, maintaining that the Horizon system had been considered a major success by Fujitsu and a source of satisfaction for the Post Office.

The inquiry also heard from Duncan Tait, another former Fujitsu executive, who clarified a past comment likening the Horizon system to “Fort Knox.” Tait explained that this referred to the physical security of Fujitsu’s offices, not the remote access capabilities of the IT system.

On Wednesday (19) night, it was revealed that the Post Office had accidentally published the names and addresses of 555 operators wrongfully convicted in the scandal. The document was quickly removed, and the incident is under urgent investigation by the Post Office, which is notifying the Information Commissioner’s Office as required.

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